Not time for blackmail – The Nation

  • IPMAN should quit grandstanding, and make sacrifices required of the emergency season

On the surface, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) would appear to have a point, as regards its grouse with the Federal Government, over the reduction of pump price of petrol from N145 to N125 per litre.

The Federal Government took this step as a result of the drastic fall in the international price of crude oil, following the spat between Russia and Saudi Arabia.  The situation is further compounded by the raging Coronavirus pandemic.

There is no doubt that the reduction in the pump price of this crucial commodity will bring some relief to millions of commuters while also helping to mitigate increases in food prices, that could have occurred if transport costs were allowed to soar, in the wake of the crisis.

However, IPMAN thinks differently. The association argues that its members bought stock at the former pump price, which had not totally been sold before the unexpected cut in pump price. It urged the Federal Government to guarantee its members the value of the shortfall or else the country may face the bleak prospect of nationwide fuel scarcity if its members are forced to shut down their facilities.

This, to us, smacks of subtle blackmail, wholly inappropriate at this time.  True, no one sets up a business to run at a loss.  Besides, an economic undertaking cannot just veer into charity, if it is to succeed. To that extent, therefore, the Federal Government should engage the oil marketers to see how any inconveniences they face, with regard to the fuel pump price reduction, may be mitigated.

Even then, does IPMAN not overstate its claim of the economic losses it will suffer, as a result of the government’s policy? We think so. But even if the reverse were the case, the association should understand these are not normal times. The world is faced with a pandemic that accelerates at such a pace that threatens the very existence of humanity. Countries across the world have had to take extraordinary measures, not only to check the spread of the virus, but also to cushion the effects, on critical economic sectors, as well as vulnerable individuals and groups.

Nigeria is no exception in this regard. For instance, the Minister of Finance, at a meeting between members of the executive and the leadership of the National Assembly, told the lawmakers that “The Federal Government is working on fiscal stimulus measures to provide relief to taxpayers and key economic sectors; incentivize employers to retain and recruit staff during the downturn; stimulate investment in critical infrastructure; review non-essential tax waivers to optimize revenues and complement monetary and trade interventions to respond to the crisis”.

Incidentally, a number of private sector actors have also joined in demonstrating empathy in this challenging season that calls for charity and humanness on the part of all. President, Dangote Industries Limited, Mr. Aliko Dangote, and Mr. Herbert Wigwe, Managing Director, Access Bank Group, are spearheading a Coalition Against Coronavirus (COCAVID) initiative, which pledges among others to erect four fully equipped 1000-bed medical tents to house patients, and serve as training, testing, isolation and treatment centres, with an additional facility on Victoria Island.

Beyond this, Access Bank has committed to “bringing in Chinese experts to provide technical and training support for our medical practitioners”. The MTN has also announced various supportive measures, including suspending transaction charges on its Cash2Cash service, for four weeks from next Monday.

IPMAN should realize that it cannot always be a question of the profit bottom line. After all, only the living can buy fuel. This certainly is no season for blackmail.

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